Category: Diary

Monthly meeting – The Geology of Suffolk

Member Colleen Nunn will be talking about geology. She says:

How much do you know about the ground beneath your feet and what it can tell us about about the geological history of Suffolk? Did you know, for example, that our county once had a climate like the present day Caribbean or that the River Thames once flowed through Suffolk? I will be exploring the rocks found here and demonstrating how they can reveal all sorts of clues as to how the landscape and climate have evolved through time.

There will be pictures and samples to see.

Faith in the Public Sphere – A Humanist Perspective

From a lunchtime seminar organised by the East of England Faiths Agency for Suffolk County Council Staff in Ipswich on 14 October 2010. The previous seminar was led by a local vicar and more seminars would be led by various faith representatives. My introduction was followed by a Q & A session.

I’m a Humanist. Humanism is a descriptive word applied retrospectively (from about the late 19th century) to a certain set of beliefs and values, free from religion. These beliefs and values are at least as old as recorded history.

Humanists accept naturalism (rather than supernaturalism) and we value scientific method as a means to gain knowledge. We accept that this life is the only one we have, and we think that morality arises out of human nature and culture. These ideas are a ‘permanent alternative’ that recur throughout time and place. They’ve been evident in Europe from the 6th century BCE to about 6th century CE, in China from the 6th century BCE onwards (the followers of Confucius were humanists), in India from the 6th century onwards, in the Arab world from about the 12th century, and in the Western world  from about the 17th century onwards.

Humanism isn’t a religion for atheists. It’s not equivalent to religion. It’s not a ‘faith’ – the word ‘faith’ means believing in something without evidence, which is anathema to a humanist. Humanists use reason to try to make sense of life and the world we live in, and if there’s something we don’t know or understand we’re content to admit that we don’t know.

Bye bye Claire

Claire RaynerClaire Rayner has died. A few Suffolk Humanists (including me) went to hear her speak at an Essex Humanists meeting in Chelmsford a few years ago, when her humour and warmth made a strong impression. I have good reason to identify with some of the things that Claire said, especially when she got cross about lazy journalists who wrote about people with cancer “losing their fight” – stuff and nonsense!

Anyhow, there are tributes aplenty on the web. Here are just three of them:

From the British Humanist Association

From the National Secular Society

From Baroness Helena Kennedy

And here’s Claire in her own words:

Her Humanist Hero, Miss Peach

How she coped with cancer

Post-Pope

The cats can relax. Now that the Pope’s gone home, I’ve stopped shouting at the TV. Who does he think he is, coming over here and telling us we’re “aggressive secularists”, and why does he imagine that the thousands of people who live here quite happily without religion have no morals? As for all that rubbish about atheists and the Nazis – he obviously reads the wrong history books.

I’ve complained to the BBC about the coverage – too much of it, too biased, too silly. I’m hoping that lots of other people did too, or they may not take much notice. They may not take much notice anyway. If that were the case, I might boycott BBC News, if it weren’t for the lovely Gavin Esler.

I wasn’t at the grammatically incorrect ‘Protest the Pope’ demonstration, but lots of people I know were, so there’s loads of stuff about it on the Internet.

If you didn’t find any of it, here’s some that’s worth reading…

Car stickers show the way

Car sticker

Suffolk Humanists and Secularists members are receiving car stickers this month. They’re printed with an easy-to-remember URL. Anyone who investigates will find it leads them to several sources of information about Humanism (click on the image to see where it takes you). An increasing number of people are either fed up with religion altogether, they’re indifferent towards it, or they’re rather confused. Maybe some of them will be pleased to know that there are many others who feel as they do, and that it’s not difficult to live a good life without religion.

Stickers are free to members or to anyone making a donation. Either click here to pay online, or here to download a membership form for you to post.

Some things for the weekend, including ‘No to Faith Schools!’

Richard DawkinsDid you watch More4 TV last week, when Richard Dawkins launched his attack on faith schools? Were you horrified by some of the things that were going on, such as those girls in a Muslim school, who thought the Qur’an’s version of our origins was true, and didn’t believe in evolution? Tom Sutcliffe wrote an excellent review for the Independent (and yes, I’m biased). If you’re a BHA member, you should have had an email from Richard Dawkins today, appealing for funds for the BHA’s campaign. If you didn’t, here’s what he wrote:

I am writing to you today to ask for your help in fighting the expansion of state-funded faith schools. This is not a campaign against religious education (teaching about religion) but against faith schools, which teach a particular religion as the one true faith (indoctrination in religion).
 
There are nearly 7,000 state-funded faith schools in England. These schools have many special privileges – they can select pupils on the basis of parents’ religious observance, discriminate on religious grounds in the employment of teachers, and teach their own RE syllabus, free of Ofsted supervision and free of any National Curriculum.

Ipswich Skeptics in the Pub – Open Talk Night postponed

Their first open talk night, when three speakers will give a talk on a subject of science, skepticism or general interest.

ISP say,

The format that we’re going to try and keep to is a speaking event every other month, alternating between a guest speaker, and an open talk night, where anyone can take the floor and talk about something that interests them. Non speaking nights will be a casual get together over a beer.

Note: This meeting has been postponed from the 21st.